Fresh Perspectives: A Silo Above the Rest
The Barn Nursery may no longer have an old barn on its property, but its history still runs deep. One example is garden center manager Heather Moister who has been a staple at this Cary, Illinois, store since she was 15 years old.
“Back then I would go to one of the managers that works here and ask him a question, and he’d always say, ‘Look it up. You figure it out. Here’s the book,'” Moister says. “He really encouraged me to develop my knowledge, and I just fell in love with the business.”
Eighteen years and a horticulture degree from Iowa State University later, Moister has made some big changes at the garden center.
The Barn Nursery is situated on approximately 10 acres at a busy, high-traffic intersection. It is strictly a retail garden center, selling finished product only, although a landscape division is a large, yet separate, part of the business.
Moister says one component that really is a step above the competition in the area is its tree department.
“Our niche is that we have a sister company called Fox Ridge, which is in Harvard [Illinois] and they grow really high-quality balled and burlap trees,” she says.
“We offer these and then the delivery and installation of those products. That’s something we do different than people down the street who just do container trees.”
Business includes retail as well as re-wholesale to landscapers.
Moister has made some big changes in the company’s point-of-sale system, especially in one of its larger departments: perennials.
Perennials used to receive a SKU simply based on their price point, PE10 for $10.99, PE12 for $12.99, etc.
“I changed that and created a SKU system where each perennial has its own SKU, so we could identify each perennial and look back and see how much of each we sold,” Moister says.
“Then from there I created our pretty simple never-out system with order points on the top 60 selling perennials, so we knew exactly what we wanted our inventory to be at all times, and we never ran out.”
This has allowed The Barn Nursery team to promote those plants without fear they won’t have enough.
It is also beneficial to their landscapers and other customers who have a sketch done for them, and they may not want to buy it immediately but instead purchase a couple weeks from that time.
They can be confident that inventory will still be there.
The system has worked well and will make its way to the shrub department shortly.
“We’re moving into doing a never-out list with our shrubs as well so we know we have the right amount of inventory,” Moister says.
“We just have to do some research to figure out what that number will be so we never run out but we don’t have too much as well.”
A Turn of Events
One thing customers will no longer see at The Barn Nursery is its annual anniversary sale and customer appreciation event. This cancellation is a very intentional decision that represents a new approach for the company.
“We found that our clientele just didn’t really care. They just want a good product at a good price,” Moister says.
“This year we’re kind of getting away from the events and we’re really focusing on one message that we’re going to tweak in different directions to make it more seasonal.”
This one message for 2016 is “Plant Something.”
The Barn Nursery plans to incorporate the message in its signage throughout the year, as well as some special products like gloves with “Plant Something” on them.
“For vegetable season, it’ll be ‘Plant Something Edible,’ and it’ll be ‘Plant Something Majestic’ to help us sell our trees,” Moister says.
“For people who maybe have never planted something before, the message is basically, ‘No matter what you do, just plant something. Get outside. Get in the dirt.'”
The Barn hasn’t completely rid itself of all events, but it has elected to do far fewer. And those events that do make the cut are based around education.
One recent event was geared toward children, discussing how native plants interact with wildlife and giving each kid a native plant to take home.
“You just have to be really sure that an event is what you want to do because what is your goal?” Moister says. “You have to be really careful to do more product-related events versus like an Easter Egg Hunt you don’t sell eggs.”
Hot, Hot, Hot
One trend that has kept The Barn Nursery on its toes is edibles.
People wants lots of unusual edibles, and Moister says they constantly have to be searching for the hottest of hot peppers because ghost is simply no longer hot enough.
Bringing in obscure varieties, however, comes with some challenges.
“It’s a fine line because with some of these more unusual varieties we don’t have personal experience,” Moister says.
“You want them to be successful especially with younger groups you don’t want them to get burnt out on something because it didn’t work for them but they want to stray from the tried and true at the same time.”
A combination of custom signage and knowledgeable employees help the customer walk out with just what they’re looking for at The Barn Nursery.
The Barn Nursery is active on social media, a company initiative that seems to be paying off.
“This winter we got a lot of business from Pinterest,” Moister says. “A few different people came in and said, “I was looking up winter porch pots or something and every picture I looked at was Barn Nursery, Barn Nursery, Barn Nursery, so I figured I had to come here.”
Julie Joyce, marketing manager, also does a lot with Houzz with the landscape department to show off the company’s designs. She uses Hubspot to tie all the social media together.
“We’ve been actively using Pinterest and putting up photos of our landscape work and inspiring ideas,” Moister says, “But definitely this winter, we had multiple people come in and mention that they saw us on Pinterest.”
This series — Fresh Perspectives — provides tips from Generations X, Y and Z. Heather Moister is a member of GPN’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2014. For more information, visit www.gpnmag.com/40-under-40.